Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, May 28th, 2020

Reaching a Deal or Deadlock

Peace talks carry increasing significance for Afghan people, who have frequently urged the Taliban to stop violence and negotiate with the Kabul administration. After many ups and downs within the past year, the peace talks between the United States and the Taliban have not borne the desired result. With the backdoor talks in the Qatari capital of Doha, it is said that no breakthrough has been made in the US-Taliban talks.
There are two ways for the talks, the US and Taliban will reach either an agreement or a cul-de-sac. However, if the talks reach a stalemate, the conflict will continue unabated and shatter Afghans’ hope for peace and stability.
There are many reasons behind the possibility of the stalemate in the talks: For the one, if the Taliban play a foul game at the table, haggle over higher prices, and seek to impose their conditions on their interlocutors without seeking to declare ceasefire, peace talks are likely to reach a deadlock.
Second, the role of global actors and regional stakeholders is very crucial in the talks. If regional and global actors do not put their weight behind the talks and pressure the Taliban to be genuine and reasonable at the peace table, negotiations will not come to fruition.
Third, if the group’s supporters do not stop their financial and intelligence support to the Taliban, talks will not be productive enough. That is, if the Taliban are equipped financially, they will continue their insurgency and are unlikely to act genuinely in this regard.
To undermine the Taliban group, Ulema Council and religious scholars have to challenge their fundamental ideology. Although Afghan religious scholars have issued fatwa earlier denouncing the Taliban’s acts of violence, such fatwas have not been preached and were simply reduced to written form.
Recently, a number of religious scholars called in the Taliban war “haram” (prohibited by Islamic law) in Afghanistan and urged warring sides to negotiate to end the war. Calling it “haram”, head of Ulema Kapisa Council Mirwais Karimi is cited as saying, “No one is allowed to interpret it in their own way. They can’t say that the war is legitimate.”
Religious scholars from across the world, mainly of Pakistan, have to issue global fatwa against the fundamental ideology of the Taliban and their affiliates and other radical groups. The silence of Pakistani religious scholars regarding the Taliban’s fundamental acts and violent practices in Afghanistan, which have no religious basis, is really surprising to me. In short, it is really hard to put an end to the protracted war unless the Taliban are pressured and undermined financially and ideologically. In such a case, all segments of the society – including politicians, religious scholars, tribal elders, civil society activists, etc. – should play their role actively and constructively.
The Taliban are unwilling to go beyond reaching an agreement for US troop withdrawal in exchange for their pledge not to allow Afghanistan to be used to plan terrorist attacks against the US and to abjure ties with al-Qaeda, ISIL or other terrorist groups.
On his recent trip to Kabul, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad briefed Afghan high-ranking officials including CEO Abdullah and his electoral team on five key issues: US-Taliban deal conditions, reduction in violence and ceasefire, the continuation of NUG until the final election results are announced, creating a national consensus for the success of the peace process and US’ support to a transparent election result.
It is true that there has been no breakthrough in the US-Taliban talks since the two sides still discuss the four issues and ceasefire and reduction in violence are still controversial.
The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded “demonstrable evidence” from the Taliban that it can and will reduce violence before signing a deal that would be a prelude to intra-Afghan talks. It was said earlier that the US and the Taliban were close to signing a deal, it is not clear how close they are. The two sides have come close to a deal on multiple occasions over the past few weeks, but realities on the grounds halted the progress.
Peace talks hit national headlines frequently and Khalilzad makes repeated trips in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Qatar, however, there is still no tangible result. It indicates that reaching a deal with the Taliban group, which appears not to be genuine in the talks, is highly difficult.
In short, peace talks are a really rocky and tortuous road. The Taliban are insincere, and their war supporters seem unwilling to discontinue their support to the group.